Monday, April 25, 2011

Businessweek Pieces: Groupon / Innovation / FIELDf/x

Couple of interesting features from BusinessWeek lately that almost serve as point-counter point articles.

From the Mar 17 issue was "Are Four Words Worth $25 Billion for Groupon?" about the Chicago company that turned down a $6B purchase offer from Google. The Brad Stone and Douglas MacMillan article chronicles the history behind the site... and delves quite a bit into the coming development from Groupon that may help make their refusal to sell a great business move.

To whit... what Groupon is looking to do is move beyond coupons and to point in time and point in location deals. Concept is that consumers would use a Groupon app on their phone and select either "I'm hungry" or "I'm bored" and then receive targeted local offers. A time window would likely be associated with each offer... making it more valuable for companies looking to immediately reduce inventory or have non-prime table times utilized.

It's an interesting piece on an interesting company, but as noted at the top... there's a second BusinessWeek story that serves as a counter-point of sorts. It's not that the prospects of Groupon are marginalized, but rather that the business impact is questioned. From the Apr 14 issue of BW was "This Tech Bubble Is Different" by Ashlee Vance.

As a piece of writing, it's probably not the greatest in the world as it seems to wander a bit, but does have a compelling idea put forth and examined. What Vance and the experts she quotes look at is the true innovation (or lack thereof) from companies like Groupon, Facebook, or Zynga that don't really create anything new... other than perhaps a new experience to spend time or money on.

It's not to be overly critical of a business with this model or intent (companies exist to make money after all), but perhaps there is something to the words put by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Perlman...

"Facebook is not the kind of technology that will stop us from having dropped cell phone calls, and neither is Groupon or any of these advertising things," he says. "We need them. O.K., great. But they are building on top of old technology, and at some point you exhaust the fuel of the underpinnings."


Another piece from BusinessWeek lately that was interesting enough to bear linking to was "Baseball: Running the New Numbers". Written by Ira Boudway, it looks at the company Sportvision and it's FIELDf/x system of cameras and data analysis designed to truly quantify the performance of a fielder.

Similar to the companies noted above, it's not curing cancer... but is something that could impact baseball and the business around the game.